This story took work to get through, and had a hard ending, but by the time I got there I’d decided it was worth it. It starts out with a handful of super-wealthy, super-whiny characters, and I spent the first several chapters wanting to slap them all. By the end of the book, though, Gibson had made me care – if not about all the people, at least about where the story was going.
Carley lives in a tiny little town of ultra-rich people. The mothers are competing with each other to throw their children the most extravagant Sweet 16 parties. When Carley’s parents attend a disastrous parent/teacher conference where her English teacher informs them Carley thinks books and reading are boring, they come up with a Cause to adopt and a theme for the party. They hire a struggling author, Bree, to move into their mansion for a month and write a book entirely to Carley’s specifications. This, they think, will cause Carley to love the book and therefore all great (and college-application-approved) literature.
Carley spends most of her time Not being things, and suffering for it at varying levels. She’s Not one of the in crowd – she suffers mildly; her mother suffers hugely. She’s Not a size two – Carley wouldn’t care, except that her mother aches to make her fit the teenage beauty mold. She’s Not Hunter’s girlfriend – she suffers mightily. Hunter is her best friend and the golden boy of the school and the town. He drinks, he drugs, he dates – everyone but her. The town can’t figure out why he hangs out with Carley, but the two mean everything to each other.
Author Bree gets thrown into this mix, also suffering mightily. She published one book and won one award, and now she’s poverty-stricken and forced to take this, the weird job/commission thrust upon her by Carley’s overbearing parents. She does her best to cope in the world of the uber-rich, and with Carley, who fights her every step of the way (it’s hard to choose a subject of her book when she’s apathetic about everything), and with a reclusive, world-famous author who lives in the neighborhood and just happened to be her college crush.
My favorite parts of the book were the excerpts from the book Bree is writing for Carley. The rest of it reads like a lesson in literature: Hunter and Bree trying to teach Carley about writing techniques and famous authors and works. It feels hella pretentious, and it does take some time to get into it, but after a while I started to feel sorry for all of them, and to want happy endings for them.
The happy endings don’t exactly appear, but it was interesting to watch Carley’s journey. I’m glad I stuck with it, even though the writing was at times dense and the characters at times unlikeable.